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Inspirational....Kieran Duignan MSc

This is a useful, readable and, probably for many an inspiring, management handbook. There are several aspects to the books usability. They start with a pragmatic definition of behavioural safety: 'a process that creates a safety partnership between management and the workforce by continually focusing everyone's attention and actions on their own, and others, safety behaviour. Pragmatism, the philosophy of gathering valid data about reality and getting to grips with it with integrity, also informs the way in which the behavioural safety process is woven into a pliable framework since, according to the author, without structure to provide the backbone any improvement effort is doomed to failure.

The framework Cooper sets out is a developmental one, characterised by what he calls a maturity ladder and describes as a useful review tool to highlight precisely where opportunity (in ownership, training, data use, marketing and sustainability reviews) presently exists. He uses the mnemonics, CLEAR and IDEAL, to condense and summarise ten action steps required to implement this framework.
In a manner of the guiding mind of an experienced applied scientist, he introduces tools that can be used to support the next step in maturation, along a gradient which he segments into five stages, with the aspirational stage of partnership at the peak. At this stage, the norm is to train everyone in the organisation in skills of accurate observation of defined forms of safe behaviour, feedback of data and associated coaching. Some of the tools are very straightforward such as his seven-point guidance on briefing potential advisers about your need for behavioural safety.

In a Behavioural Safety Maturity Matrix, he succinctly profiles ten indicators at each level of maturity and proceeds to describe how a host of tools broadly classified in terms of technical design and execution issues - may support the evolution of behavioural safety. As a token of the desired maturity, Cooper himself displays sufficient balance to record how research indicates that ergonomic interventions can be almost as effective as behavioural safety as a path to reducing injuries. Strongly advocating a measurement strategy, in discussing four approaches to measurement, he indicates how the setting and not popularity of particular methods is likely to be a more appropriate indicator of effectiveness.

Associated with Cooper’s strong emphasis on the need for working out explicit success criteria at the outset, one of the great strengths of the title is the inclusion of forms of retrieval and true-to-life workarounds to settle people down and gain or regain co-operation and momentum after a false start due to design errors at the outset. Another strength is the combination of clarity, incisiveness, comprehensiveness and rigour with which he guides the reader through the process of assessing the culture of their organisation: from gathering data on the three major inputs of safety culture (views about safety, safety behaviour and the effectiveness of management systems), through methods of gathering and evaluating data with predictive validity, to outcomes of the safety culture, which he defines as 'the observable degree of effort on the part of everyone in the workplace to everyday attention and actions about safety.

The books usefulness also derives from observations on four dimensions of an organisational system that influence safety practices and on the motives that sustain commitment to behavioural safety. Cooper asserts that the principles of Behavioural Safety are universally applicable, meaning they apply across industries; in view of the contiguity between occupational safety and health as management processes, one may hypothesise that these principles of behaviour, and indeed possibly the process of maturity evolution postulated by Cooper, may apply to the field of occupational health, with appropriate attention to sources of risks to health. This is not a claim he makes but is perhaps one worthy of research in view of the scale of costs of absence attributed to work-related illnesses, vis-à-vis injuries.

Rather than try to enumerate groups of readers likely to find this book useful, it is easier to suggest two groups of readers unlikely to find it useful. One is those people who are looking for a quick-fix recipe to which they simply add the water of their favourite mantras; Cooper is supportive but doesn’t shy away from challenging his readers to think about how they can exercise practical leadership with respect for their people. The other group is managers and safety specialists who expect to be able to manipulate managers and their workforces into doing what they are told; for them, Cooper observes ‘Management time is one of the most precious commodities in business, and spending it to police compliance to additional procedures rather than focusing on the core activities that will increase profits seems a pointless exercise. Apart from these groups, all or part of this guide to behavioural safety has a lot to offer managers or professionals eager to cost-effectively improve safety or productivity.

The readability of Cooper’s writing may be partly due to the coherence derived from his use of the framework to organise his thinking. It also arises from his accounts of incidents that are telling short stories that don’t moralise; their impact is due to how they show the need to pinpoint the exact problem before attempting a solution. They also neatly indicate associations between financial and human costs of unsafe acts and choices made by individuals and groups to do them or to allow them to happen; and they draw links between safety and non-safety (especially quality) systems of management. The book’s readability is also supported by the care Cooper has taken to write with pace and clarity. The well-designed colour illustrations and tables as well make the title a model of a technical guide that is also visually appealing and the glossary of the behavioural safety terms serves to lower any anxiety aroused by these terms.

My response to the elegance of Dominic Cooper’s writing reminds me of my excitement when, at the age of twelve, I watched the then World Number 1 tennis player play an exhibition game. What an inspiration - his style made his power and control appear so easy! Inspirational in a slightly different vein, Cooper very clearly warns of pitfalls that behavioural safety presents to the unwary while he also comes across as being present as a coach who really wants to extend to each reader some personally-relevant guidance on how to improve his or her own performance in the field of safety management. I was also positively influenced by his candour about limits to what behavioural safety initiatives can deliver where the conditions are defective. The theme of partnership in various forms is used to orient readers to high standards and to work with stamina for alignment across all safety activities.

Cooper offers a handbook and not a library; so, there is inevitably a trade-off in this guide that has the advantages of usability and readability. Readers who want to learn about cognitive, interactive or motivational processes in depth will need to turn to one of the other sources on behavioural safety for material on these matters but I know of no title that can rival Cooper’s style of engaging people and of conveying the potency of applying psychology at work.

Kieran Duignan M Sc., C Psychol, CMIOSH, CFCIPD, MSCP, Eur Erg, Simply Enabling, Croydon, Surrey, England. 6th Oct 09

List Price: $59.99

List Price: $59.99

Product Details
230 pages
Publisher: BSMS; 1st edition (September, 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0-9842039-0-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-9842039-0-1
Product Dimensions: 9.0 x 6.0 x 0.8 inches

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